UNESCO World Heritage Sites In East India – Part 3
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in East India with Reshma Kulkarni
When it comes to culture, history and monuments; East India presents a tough competition to the regions of North and South. Here’s a look at some of the UNESCO WH sites in East India:
1) Konark Temple, Odisha
Built by King Narasimhadeva I in the 13th century, this sandstone behemoth is a Sun-temple designed in the form of the Sun’s chariot with 24 wheels pulled by six horses and decorated with ornate stone carvings. The site, which found a place in the WH list in 1984, has also been called the Black Pagoda by Europeans and used to be a prominent landmark for sailors at that time. While a major portion of the temple is in ruins now, one can still get an idea of the architectural and engineering excellence through the huge pillars, dining hall, audience hall and erotic sculptures that have survived till date.
2) Darjeeling Mountain Railway, West Bengal
This railway is one amongst the three that form the Mountain Railways of India which have been included in the UNESCO WH list. The DHR, also known as the ‘Toy Train’, is a 2 ft. narrow gauge railway. It runs in the state of West Bengal between Jalpaigudi and Darjeeling, flanked by the scenic beauty all through. DHR was the second mountain railway in the world (the first one being in Austria) to have been placed on the UNESCO WH list. It received this honour in 1999 for being an innovative transportation system, which also contributed to the socio-economic development in a huge way.
3) Kaziranga National Park, Assam
One of the most renowned sanctuaries in India, the Kaziranga National Park was declared as a UNESCO WH site in 1985 for its unique habitat. The park is most famous for being home to 2/3rds of the world’s Great One-Horned Rhinoceros. Apart from that, it also hosts other unique species like swamp-deer, elephants and wild water buffalo. The Park was declared as a National Tiger Reserve in 2006 for having the highest density of tigers amongst the protected areas of the world. Furthermore, it is also recognised as an important bird area by Birdlife International.
4) Sundarbans, West Bengal
The Sundarbans, which literally translates as ‘beautiful forest’, is the largest estuarine mangrove forest of the world. The name is also said to be derived from the abundance of Sundari trees in this area.The Sundarbans spreads over 10,000 sq. km of land and water. Out of this, about 5,980 sq. km is in India (the rest is in Bangladesh). Sundarbans is an essential part of the world’s largest delta of 80,000 sq. km. formed from sediments of three rivers i.e. the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna, which confluence in the Bengal Basin. It was declared as a Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. This mangrove forest got added to the list of UNESCO WH sites in 1997.
5) Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
Also known as Manas National Park, this sanctuary may not be as well-known as Kaziranga, but has in fact been declared as a World Heritage in 1985 and a World Heritage in Danger since 1992. However, this tag was removed in the year 2011, after the park showed successful efforts at preservation of endangered species. This sanctuary is located in the plains of Manas River and shares a considerable border with Bhutan. It was declared a WH by UNESCO for its unique natural environment. The sanctuary is home to several species of flora-fauna, apart from 21 out of the 55 most threatened species of mammals. It also has several birds, amphibians and reptiles. Some of the endangered species found in the sanctuary include the Clouded Leopard, Assam Roofed Turtle, Golden Langur, Hispid Hare and the Tiger. In fact, the sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve as part of Project Tiger in 1973.